Skip to main content

Expanding Perspectives on Evangelicalism: How Non-evangelical Students Appreciate Evangelical Christianity

Abstract

Evangelical students pose a distinctive set of challenges to higher education professionals. These students, though advantaged to some degree because of their Christian identity, commonly report feeling marginalized and silenced on college campuses. In light of these tensions, the purpose of this study was to examine how non-evangelical students come to an appreciative understanding of evangelical Christianity. Specifically, the research focused on the specific campus conditions and experiences that influence non-evangelical students’ appreciative attitudes toward evangelicals. Findings reveal distinct demographic, institution type, and academic major differences in those students’ perspectives toward their evangelical peers. Additionally, the results suggest that appreciative attitudes toward evangelicals are associated with non-evangelical students’ interfaith experiences, albeit to differing degrees based on self-identified worldview. Recognizing that the work of helping non-evangelical students develop an appreciative understanding of evangelicals is as complicated as it is challenging, especially in the collegiate context, the authors conclude with a discussion of implications for research and practice.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. In order to ensure adequate statistical power, worldview groups were only disaggregated if the number of student respondents numbered at least 100 for that particular group. Thus, the remaining 8% of students identifying as “another worldview” comprised some distinct groups (e.g., Hindu) that did not have 100 respondents, as well as some students who identified as “another worldview”.

References

  • Allison, Paul. 2002. Missing data. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Allison, Paul. 2012. Handling missing data by maximum likelihood. http://statisticalhorizons.com/wp-content/uploads/MissingDataByML.pdf. Accessed 30 Nov 2016.

  • Astin, Alexander W. 1993. What matters in college: Four critical years revisited. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Google Scholar 

  • Baxter Magolda, Marcia B. 1992. Knowing and reasoning in college: Gender-related patterns in students’ intellectual development. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bielo, James. 2011. Emerging evangelicals. New York: NYU Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Bloom, Benjamin, Max Engelhart, Edward Furst, Walker H. Hil, and David R. Krathwohl. 1956. Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. Handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York, Toronto: Longmans, Green.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brimeyer, Ted M., and William L. Smith. 2014. Conservative protestant college students and their peers: Similarities and differences. Religion & Education 41: 194–206.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brow, Mark V., Jenny Yau, Ying H. Jiang, and Patricia Bonner. 2014. Christians in higher education: Investigating the perceptions of intellectual diversity among evangelical undergraduates at elite public universities in southern California. Journal of Research on Christian Education. doi:10.1080/10656219.2014.901932.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bryant, Alyssa N. 2005. Evangelicals on campus: An exploration of culture, faith, and college life. Religion and Education. doi:10.1080/15507394.2005.10012355.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bryant, Alyssa N. 2006. Assessing the gender climate of an evangelical student subculture in the United States. Gender and Education 18: 613–634.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bryant, Alyssa N. 2007. A portrait of evangelical Christian students in college. Social Science Research Council. http://religion.ssrc.org/reforum/Bryant.pdf. Accessed 30 Nov 2016.

  • Bryant, Alyssa N. 2008. The developmental pathways of evangelical Christian students. Religion and Education. doi:10.1080/15507394.2008.10012417.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bryant, Alyssa N. 2009. Negotiating the complementarian gender ideology of an evangelical student subculture: Further evidence from women’s narratives. Gender and Education. doi:10.1080/09540250802680057.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bryant, Alyssa N. 2011. Evangelical Christian students and the path to self-authorship. Journal of Psychology and Theology 39: 16–30.

    Google Scholar 

  • Case, Kim A., Mike McMullen, and Beth Hentges. 2013. Teaching the taboo: Walking the tightrope of Christian privilege. In Deconstructing privilege: Teaching and learning as allies in the classroom, ed. Kim A. Case, 188–206. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Chang, Mitchell J. 2002. The impact of an undergraduate diversity course requirement on students’ racial views and attitudes. The Journal of General Education 51: 21–42.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chavez, Alicia Fedelina, Florence Guido-DiBrito, and Sherry L. Mallory. 2003. Learning to value the ‘other’: A framework of individual diversity development. Journal of College Student Development. doi:10.1353/csd.2003.0038.

    Google Scholar 

  • Clark, Christine, and Mark Brimhall-Vargas. 2003. Diversity initiatives in higher education: Secular aspects and international implications of Christian privilege. Multicultural Education 11: 55–57.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cohen, Jacob. 1988. Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences, 2nd ed. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cohen, Jacob, Patricia Cohen, Stephen G. West, and Leona S. Aiken. 2003. Applied multiple regression/correlation analysis for the behavioral sciences, 3rd ed. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  • Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. 2010. Profile of post-secondary education. https://www.cccu.org/filefolder/Profile_US_Post-Secondary_Education-updated2010.pdf. Accessed 30 Nov 2016.

  • Cumings, Kevin D., Jennifer G. Haworth, and Keith O’Neill. 2001. A “perfect standard?” exploring perceptions of student life and culture at Wheaton College. Religion and Education 28: 33–64.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dupuis, Jacques. 1997. Toward a Christian theology of religious pluralism. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Eagan, Kevin, Ellen B. Stolzenberg, Joseph J. Ramirez, Melissa C. Aragon, Maria R. Suchard, and Cecilia Rios-Aguilar. 2016. The American freshman: Fifty-year trends, 1966–2015. Los Angeles: Higher Education Research Institute, UCLA.

    Google Scholar 

  • Eck, Diana L. 2006. 2006 Presidential address. Journal of the American Academy of Religion 75: 743–776.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Engberg, Mark E. 2007. Educating the workforce for the 21st century: A cross-disciplinary analysis of the impact of the undergraduate experience on students’ development of a pluralistic orientation. Research in Higher Education 48: 283–317.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Engberg, Mark E., and Matthew J. Mayhew. 2007. The influence of first-year ‘success’ courses on student learning and democratic outcomes. Journal of College Student Development. doi:10.1353/csd.2007.0023.

    Google Scholar 

  • Felix, Vivienne, and Nicholas A. Bowman. 2015. A historical and research overview of religious/worldview identification in higher education. In Making meaning: Embracing spirituality, faith, religion, and life purpose in student affairs, ed. Jenny L. Small, 37–57. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

    Google Scholar 

  • Foubert, John D., and Dale Fuqua. 2012. Explaining the wind: How self-identified born again Christians define what born again means to them. Journal of Psychology and Christianity 31: 215–226.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gilligan, Carol. 1982. In a different voice: Psychological theory and women’s development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hammond, Phillip E., and James D. Hunter. 1984. On maintaining plausibility: The worldview of evangelical college students. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 23: 221–238.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Heck, Ronald H., and Scott L. Thomas. 2008. An introduction to multilevel modeling techniques, 2nd ed. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hurtado, Sylvia, Mark E. Engberg, Luis Ponjuan, and Lisa Landreman. 2002. Students’ precollege preparation for participation in a diverse democracy. Research in Higher Education 43: 163–186.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hurtado, Sylvia, Jeffrey F. Milem, Alma R. Clayton-Pedersen, and Walter R. Allen. 1998. Enhancing campus climates for racial/ethnic diversity: Educational policy and practice. The Review of Higher Education 21: 279–302.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kegan, Robert. 1994. In over our heads: The mental demands of modern life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kohlberg, Lawrence. 1976. Moral stages and moralization: The cognitive-developmental approach. In Moral development and behavior, ed. Tom Likona. New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.

    Google Scholar 

  • Larsen, Ross. 2011. Missing data imputation versus full information maximum likelihood with second-level dependencies. Structural Equation Modeling: A Multidisciplinary Journal 18: 649–662.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lipka, Michael. 2016. Evangelicals increasingly say it’s becoming harder for them in America. Pew Research Center. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/07/14/evangelicals-increasingly-say-its-becoming-harder-for-them-in-america/. Accessed 22 Sep 2016.

  • Ma, Stella Y. 2003. The Christian college experience and the development of spirituality among students. Christian Higher Education. doi:10.1080/15363750390246097.

    Google Scholar 

  • Magolda, Peter M., and Kelsey E. Gross. 2009. It’s all about Jesus! Faith as an oppositional collegiate subculture. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

    Google Scholar 

  • Markofski, Wes. 2015. New monasticism and the transformation of American evangelicalism. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Marsden, George M. 1994. The soul of the American university: From Protestant establishment to established nonbelief. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mayhew, Matthew J. 2004. Exploring the essence of spirituality: A phenomenological study of eight students with eight different worldviews. NASPA Journal 41: 647–675.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mayhew, Matthew J., and Jeffrey S. Simonoff. 2015. Non-white, no more: Effect coding as an alternative to dummy coding with implications for researchers in higher education. Journal of College Student Learning and Development 56: 170–175.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Moran, Christy D., Dennis J. Lang, and Jenea Oliver. 2007. Cultural incongruity and social status ambiguity: The experiences of evangelical Christian student leaders at two midwestern public universities. Journal of College Student Development. doi:10.1353/csd.2007.0004.

    Google Scholar 

  • National Association of Evangelicals. n.d. What is an evangelical? http://nae.net/what-is-an-evangelical/. Accessed 28 July 2016.

  • Nelson, Jason E. 2010. Deconstructing academic writing: Continuing a conversation on Christian privilege. Multicultural Education 17: 38–43.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pally, Marcia. 2011. The new evangelicals: Expanding the vision of the common good. Cambridge: William B. Eerdmans.

    Google Scholar 

  • Paredes-Collins, Kristin. 2009. Institutional priority for diversity at Christian institutions. Christian Higher Education 8: 280–303.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Paredes-Collins, Kristin. 2014. Campus climate for diversity as a predictor of spiritual development at Christian colleges. Religion & Education. doi:10.1080/15507394.2013.864206.

    Google Scholar 

  • Paredes-Collins, Kristin, and Christopher S. Collins. 2011. The intersection of race and spirituality: Underrepresented students’ spiritual development at predominantly White evangelical colleges. Journal of Research on Christian Education. doi:10.1080/10656219.2011.557586.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pascarella, Ernest T., Marcia Edison, Amaury Nora, Linda S. Hagedorn, and Patrick Terenzini. 1996. Influences on students’ openness to diversity and challenge in the first year of college. Journal of Higher Education 67: 174–195.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pascarella, Ernest T., Betsy Palmer, Melinda Moye, and Christopher T. Pierson. 2001. Do diversity experiences influence the development of critical thinking? Journal of College Student Development 42: 257–271.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pew Research Center. 2015. America’s changing religious landscape. http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape. Accessed 30 Nov 2016.

  • Piaget, Jean. 1975. The equilibrium of cognitive structures: The central problem of intellectual development. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Porter, Stephen R. 2006. What can multilevel models add to institutional research? In Applications of intermediate/advanced statistics in institutional research, ed. Mary Ann Coughlin, 110–131. Tallahassee, FL: Association for Institutional Research.

    Google Scholar 

  • Raghunathan, Trivellore E. 2004. What do we do with missing data? Some options for analysis of incomplete data. Annual Review of Public Health 25: 99–117.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Raudenbush, Stephen W., and Anthony S. Bryk. 2002. Hierarchical linear models: Applications and data analysis methods, vol. 1. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rest, James R. 1986. Moral development: Advances in research and theory. New York: Praeger Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rockenbach, Alyssa N., Matthew J. Mayhew, Shauna Morin, Rebecca E. Crandall, and Benjamin Selznick. 2015. Fostering the pluralism orientation of college students through interfaith co-curricular engagement. The Review of Higher Education 39: 25–58.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sanford, Nevitt. 1966. Self and society: Social change and individual development. New York: Atherton Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schmalzbauer, John. 2010. Social engagement in an evangelical campus ministry: The case of Urbana 2006. Journal of College and Character 11: 1–10.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schulz, Scott A. 2005. The big chill: Are campuses turning a cold shoulder to religious students? Religion and Education 32: 31–45.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Seifert, Tricia. 2007. Understanding Christian privilege: Managing the tensions of spiritual plurality. About Campus 12: 10–17.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Small, Jennifer L. 2011. Understanding college students’ spiritual identities: Different faith, varied worldviews. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Smith, Christian. 1998. American evangelicalism: Embattled and thriving. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Smith, Christian. 2000. Christian America? What evangelicals really want. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • The Pluralism Project. n.d. What is pluralism? http://pluralism.org/what-is-pluralism/. Accessed 30 Nov 2016.

  • Thelin, John. 2011. A history of American higher education, 2nd ed. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Thomas, Scott L., and Ronald H. Heck. 2001. Analysis of large-scale secondary data in higher education research: Potential perils associated with complex sampling designs. Research in Higher Education 42: 517–540.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Yancey, George. 2011. Compromising scholarship: Religious and political bias in American higher education. Waco: Baylor University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Yancey, George, and David A. Williamson. 2015. So many Christians, so few lions: Is there Christianophobia in the United States? Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Matthew J. Mayhew.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Mayhew, M.J., Rockenbach, A.N., Bowman, N.A. et al. Expanding Perspectives on Evangelicalism: How Non-evangelical Students Appreciate Evangelical Christianity. Rev Relig Res 59, 207–230 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13644-017-0283-8

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13644-017-0283-8

Keywords

  • Evangelical Christianity
  • College students
  • Higher education
  • Pluralism
  • Interfaith